Yankees' character shouldn't be questioned
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Maybe Joe Girardi deserves credit for holding a quick meeting early Wednesday morning, when the Yankees seemed deader than disco.
Perhaps top billing goes to CC Sabathia, who bent like a congressman but never cracked, giving his team the starting pitching performance it needed so badly.
And let's not forget the Rangers, who contributed to the game's key sequence by recreating the "Look at how bad these guys are while Roy Hobbs sits on the bench" montage from "The Natural."
Choose your motivation and motivator, but know this: By prevailing, 7-2, over the Rangers in American League Championship Series Game 5 Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, the defending World Series champions silenced the doubts about their character.
Now, in returning to Texas down 3-2 in games, still on the brink of elimination, they have to answer their questions about their baseball.
"We have not played extremely well in this series," Girardi said, in a grand understatement. "There was a determination that we were going to go out and play our game today. I saw it during [batting practice]. The mood during BP was very businesslike, and we knew what we had to do."
"We have a lot of guys in the clubhouse that have been in a lot of situations," Sabathia said. "And especially in the postseason, when you see how they go about their business, you just try and relax and go out and do your job."
I made the mistake of listening to sports radio these last few days, and heard the chatter: "These Yankees don't want it enough. They're not hungry. They're soft."
Seriously? What is wrong with you people? Do you not understand the notion of a small sample size?
Just to make sure his own players weren't believing the hype, Girardi - coming off a rough contest on his end in Game 4- reinforced his message of perspective after their 10-3 loss, which put them in a 3-1 hole.
Said Girardi, "I just talked to them about, 'We have won three games in a row before. We have bounced back a number of times. We are a talented club. Just go out, play your game, be aggressive and do what you do.'
"I said, just look at tomorrow. Win a game tomorrow. And that will be our approach on Friday."
The Yankees caught the break they needed when Jorge Posada scored from first base on Curtis Granderson's single, with the benefit of Jeff Francoeur's throwing error and C.J. Wilson's misplay. In addition to the sequence putting the Yankees up 3-0, it made them think this could be their day.
Sabathia did much of the lifting from there, working through 11 Rangers hits and limiting Texas to one hit in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position. Kerry Wood picked up six outs and Mariano Rivera three, and the Yankees dressed for Texas.
So they avoided the embarrassment of ending their season at home. Now they still have to outplay the Rangers twice more, with the indomitable Cliff Lee waiting for Game 7 if necessary Saturday night. The Yankees still went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and the left side of their infield has the range of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Phil Hughes has to pitch much better than he did in Game 2, and the Yankees probably will have to produce more in the clutch than they have so far, besides the magical eighth inning of Game 1 - and without the injured Mark Teixeira. The middle relievers, too, must improve. Then again, such upgrades could prove moot if Lee controls Game 7 like he did Game 3.
The questions concern ability and execution. Not mental strength. For if these Yankees fall short, it won't result from a lack of desire or fire.